Esther’s story is a legendary tale of an ordinary girl being used by God in an extraordinary way. It’s the story of a young orphan girl from a common background who was suddenly thrust into a beauty contest and quickly elevated to the role of queen of a vast kingdom (kind of a Cinderella story, really). But this teenage girl hid a secret that could have killed her. Then a turn of events forced her to decide whether or not she would lay her life on the line to protect her people from destruction. Only she could save them.
Sounds like a script for a Hollywood movie, doesn’t it? But this story is true.
Even if you’ve already read the story of Esther in the Bible or my first book, For Such a Time as This, I think you’ll want to dig a little deeper with me into Esther’s life. Why? Because comparing the life of this timeless role model with the lives of young women today who exhibit similar characteristics will help you better understand the ways God is working in your life. We’ll look at:
• what it is about Esther that has made her a role model for generations to come.
• the ways Esther expressed her character that positioned her for this noble task.
• the critical choices Esther made that set her apart from others.
• the courage it took to be God’s girl in a moment of crisis.
Choices…challenges…a crisis...and a call—Esther faced them all. But guess what? So will you. And how you respond to these situations will determine how God uses you in your generation.
To discover how Esther’s example can be applied in our lives today, let’s take a look at her story—and how God shaped an ordinary life into an extraordinary one.
Take a look at Esther’s story—and how God shaped an ordinary life into an extraordinary one.
A Young Girl Is Chosen for a Man-Sized Task
Esther was a girl who…
Hold up. Stop right there! A girl?
Before we go any further, let’s make sure we get something that might be easy to skim right over. Esther was a girl. It’s pretty amazing and encouraging that right before a crisis for His people was about to unfold, God put His confidence in an average teenage girl. Of all the people God could have chosen to protect the Jews when they were being threatened with annihilation, He chose a girl! That tells us right away that God delights in His girls and wants to use them to touch His world in uniquely feminine ways. It seems that sometimes, the best guy for the job is a girl! Both then and now, His Holy Spirit is the only source of bona fide “girl power.”
Esther didn’t just wake up one day, look at her Day-Timer, realize it was her date with destiny, and ask herself, “So, what am I going to wear?” No, two very important elements were working together in Esther’s life, which paved the way for her to be fully prepared and in position at just the right moment when God would use her in a magnificent way. First, the creative and providential hand of God was on Esther before she was even born. Second, Esther was willing to bend her will to the will of God, allowing Him to move her from one significant event in her destiny to the next. The character qualities she would need in that crucial moment were being shaped and molded in her as, one choice at a time, she did the right thing. At every turn, because Esther was obedient, she allowed God to be the Director of her life.
His Holy Spirit is the only source of bona fide “girl power.”
Esther’s story of destiny really started when she was a child. You see, she was an orphan—her mother, father, and maybe even her sisters and brothers had been killed, possibly by enemies of the Jews. Because the Jews had been forced to leave their homeland and live in the vast kingdom of Persia, they had to deal with religious and racial prejudice.
After her parents died, Esther went to live with her older cousin Mordecai and his family. She became like a daughter to Mordecai and was devoted to him and obeyed his instructions.
For Esther to fulfill that pivotal moment in her destiny, when she would be used by God to deliver her people from annihilation, it was important for these character traits of respect and obedience to be developed in her. The strength of these traits would eventually lead to her say just the right thing at just the right time after she was promoted to just the right position to plead with King Xerxes for the lives of her people.
The opportunity for Esther’s “date with destiny” presented itself when King Xerxes became angry with his queen and dethroned her. The main concern here was Queen Vashti’s refusal to come when the king called her—it set an example of disrespect that the king’s advisors feared might spread into households throughout the kingdom. They suggested that Xerxes hold a sort of pageant to find a woman more worthy of the royal position of queen. The king, of course, liked this idea (what guy wouldn’t?).
Obviously, King Xerxes had no idea that God had a plan as well—to use this otherwise worldly contest for His own purposes. Providence was already at work. The road was being paved for God to position His girl for a divine moment.
The pageant qualifications were posted: “Wanted: Beautiful Young Virgins.”
Virginity was one of the qualifications to make it into the first round of this pageant. For a girl to even be considered for the position of queen, she had to have the purity of a virgin.
Esther’s purity qualified her for her destiny. In our day and age, some people would consider this requirement politically incorrect at best. Others might say you’d be hard-pressed even to find virgins for the competition. But in Esther’s time, physical purity was a huge deal. It was a commentary on a girl’s character and the character of her family. An unmarried young girl who was not a virgin would be disowned and labeled contaminated, dirty, and a disgrace to her community. Purity was a valued virtue.
Today it’s a different story. Sexual compromise is accepted—and almost expected—in our society. But the high value of purity hasn’t changed in God’s eyes. The times may have changed, but God hasn’t. As His eyes scan the earth for individuals He will move to the next level of preparation in His plan for their lives, His attention is drawn to those who demonstrate lives of purity, virtue, modesty, and discretion.
He does not take his eyes off the righteous; he enthrones them with kings and exalts them forever. (Job 36:7)
Esther’s virginity was an expression of the purity of her heart, mind, and motive. Like Esther, our own inner purity is carried out in the choices we make and in the way we live. I want to say something important here, though: If this discussion about the need for purity has brought conviction in your heart, please be encouraged—you can always begin again. If you haven’t maintained purity in your life, you aren’t forever disqualified from finding God’s destiny for your life. God can cleanse you and make you whole again. If you let Him, God will set you apart again, or perhaps for the first time, for His purposes. Remember this: It is never too early or too late to start walking in purity in every area of your life.
It is never too early or too late to start walking in purity in every area of your life.
Like the other contestants in this beauty pageant, Esther was to be set apart in the palace for a year. There she would be prepared, purified, and beautified before meeting the king and being seriously considered to be his queen. Any blemish she had would be treated with healing agents. Special cosmetics, herbs, and oils were part of this time of intense preparation.
On a physical level, this was a beauty makeover. And what girl doesn’t love a makeover? But on a spiritual level, we can see that this was a time of purification and preparation for her promotion to queen, and then advocate. Like He did with Esther, God is setting girls apart today and preparing them by purifying their hearts, minds, and bodies for purposes yet to be revealed.
God also equipped Esther with the other qualifications needed for her specific destiny. Remember the ad for Beautiful Young Virgins? God knew that Esther’s youth and outward beauty would capture the king’s attention. The Bible says she was “lovely in form and features” (Esther 2:7). But the most attractive thing about Esther was an inner beauty that far outshone the lovely packaging.
In Esther 2:15, we are told that she won the favor of everyone who saw her. Even Hegai, who supervised the young ladies-in-waiting, saw something special in Esther and gave her a private room for her year of preparation. Esther humbly took Hegai’s advice about what to take in with her when she visited the king. Obeying Mordecai from the time she was a young child had developed in Esther the heart of a servant who had reverence for those in authority over her. And that kind of character can be very attractive—even irresistible.
Like fine jewels might accessorize her outward beauty, favor decorated Esther’s inner life. Because God’s favor was resting on Esther as He positioned her for this divine assignment, others couldn’t help but be drawn to her.
Hegai approved of Esther so much that he handpicked seven maids to assist, support, and be companions to her during her time of preparation.
These seven Persian women would become such loyal friends to Esther that ultimately they would end up fasting and praying to Esther’s Jewish God for her people. They were also by her side when she was set apart for purification and preparation.
These are the kinds of friends we all should ask God to place in our lives. Friends who will help us in our quest to be set apart, purified, and prepared for His divine purposes. And this is the kind of friend we should seek to be for others. You never know...you just might be God’s handpicked maiden friend for someone else.
As Esther’s year of preparation came to an end, her time to go before the king arrived. Each of the young women in the running to become queen could choose to take something into the king’s chambers with them, perhaps to capture his attention, entertain, or otherwise make herself memorable to him. The Bible specifies that Esther asked to take nothing other than what Hegai suggested (2:15). While Hegai surely knew what might touch the heart of the king, Esther didn’t come to this critical moment looking to manipulate, but came authentically, wanting nothing other than to impress the king with herself.
As women, so often we hide behind a mask of some kind or do our little song and dance in an attempt to impress others. We project the image we want people to see in order to hide our insecurity, low self-esteem, anger, or emotional pain. But before we can fully embrace our destiny and God’s plan for our lives, we have to “get real” before our King, Jesus. We have to become vulnerable. Because it’s in that moment of truth and weakness that God delights in putting a ring on our hand and a robe of righteousness over our shoulders and lifting us to a place of royalty in His court. And isn’t that what all God’s girls really want?
God’s providence and Esther’s obedience put Esther in the right place at the right time. And His favor on her made her irresistible. You guessed it—the king looked no further. He had found his queen. The crown, the gowns, the sporty new chariot, and the responsibility of this noble position were now Esther’s (and she didn’t even have to trip the other girls as they strode down the runway or claw their eyes out on her way to the position of Queen Bee). Esther behaved in just the way God had prepared her for, and the promotion followed naturally.
So Esther was in the palace now, living as the new queen of Persia. But keep in mind that she was still obeying Mordecai’s instruction to her that she not reveal her true identity—that she was a Jew. Revealing that secret at this time could’ve led to some serious consequences for her.
But before Esther even had time to get cozy in the safety of her new royal position, an evil plot began to unfold….
Just when Esther might’ve started settling on the idea that being queen of Persia was her destiny, she began to realize that God had a much bigger plan. All along, God had been planning to turn an enemy’s evil plot into a miraculous blessing for the Jewish people. Only God could’ve known in advance that a need for a young woman who was adorned with character, courage, and compassion—and had the favor of the king—was about to arise.
The details of Esther’s life are a wonderful example of the supernatural ways in which God fulfills His plan and purpose by putting people into certain positions, circumstances, and events. Some people see this divine providence as being like the pieces of fabric that are organized and sewn into a beautiful and intricate quilt.
Even before Haman, the king’s right-hand man, got mad at Mordecai, God knew that this self-serving and ambitious assistant would rear his ugly head and become an enemy of God’s people. He knew that when the king elevated Haman higher than all the other noblemen, Haman’s ego would ultimately get the best of him. God also knew that Mordecai, who was faithful to God, wouldn’t kneel down before Haman. Mordecai wouldn’t even think of expressing worship toward someone other than God.
So when Mordecai refused to bow down to him, Haman became so angry that he decided to take out his fury on all the Jewish people in the kingdom. He concocted a deceptive scheme and convinced King Xerxes to pass a law that would lead to the massacre of all the Jews in the kingdom. The king agreed to Haman’s proposal, but he had no idea that he was signing the death sentence for his own wife, Queen Esther.
At this point, Esther’s resolve, courage, and trust in God were put to the test like never before. Mordecai sent a message to Esther, begging her to go to the king and plead for mercy on behalf of the Jews. Here, for the first time, we see Esther hesitate in response to an instruction from Mordecai. She probably felt a bit uncertain in her position as queen. After all, the king hadn’t called for her in over a month. And, worst-case, barging in on him uninvited could lead to death.
When Esther still wasn’t seeing clearly that her destiny could be fulfilled in this crisis—or the important role she could play in this critical moment in history—Mordecai hit her with this eye-opener:
“Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish....”
The conclusion of this well-known passage surely must have jolted Esther into reality:
“And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13–14, italics mine)
In his passionate plea, Mordecai pointed out that this was a destiny moment for Esther. God may have strategically positioned her as queen just so she could approach King Xerxes and ask him to have mercy on her people. Even though Mordecai had suggested all along that Esther’s destiny perhaps was to be the person God used to bring “relief and deliverance for the Jews” (v. 14), Esther still had a choice to make. Would she take the step that just might be the fulfillment of a master plan orchestrated by God? Would she believe Mordecai’s words—that putting her life on the line now was the only way to preserve it later?
For her pivotal destiny moment to fully unfold, Esther had a choice to make.
As Esther began to realize the gravity of her predicament, she had what I call an “Esther moment.” This happens when a person has an “Aha!” moment, which is quickly followed by an “Oh no!” response. First, there is the “Aha! Now I see that this situation I’m dealing with is about more than just me. It’s a God thing!” Then right on the heels of this realization comes the “Oh no! This may cost me something. Am I willing to give up my pride, my reputation, my acceptance by others, my comfortable lifestyle, or even my very life to do what God is asking?” When an Esther moment happens in your own life, it is your opportunity to choose faith over fear and to be God’s courageous girl.
Courage = Faith > Fear
Okay...back to Esther. :)
Mordecai gave her the options: She could choose to hold back and not act, but God would still raise up someone to do what He had destined her to do. (He’s God—He’ll get the job done with or without us!)
Or she could act.
One of the key lessons we learn from the life of Esther is that she could’ve either stepped toward or walked away from this moment. She could’ve either fulfilled her God-given destiny of being a part of God’s larger plan for His people, or not.
Ever been there? I sure have. Over the years there have been critical moments when I faced my fear and boldly stepped into my destiny. But at other times I’ve hung my head in regret after I backed away in fear and disobeyed God at a very crucial and pivotal point in my life. The good news is that God always brings us to another destiny moment. But each time He gives us these opportunities, we are the ones who choose whether to walk into our date with destiny.
Esther’s years of character preparation had all been leading up to this “Aha!”...”Oh no!” moment. Emboldened by the realization that she had been positioned to be God’s agent in the situation, she leaped into action. Esther chose to stand between the death sentence and her people. She chose to fight for what was right. Esther the Queen chose to accept her promotion to Esther the Advocate. She chose to take up a cause that was much bigger than her—one that could even jeopardize her own safety and well being—and rise up into God’s call!
As Esther rose to the call, she expressed a boldness and spiritual authority we haven’t seen in her before. First she called on all the Jews in the land to come together and fast:
“Go, gather together all the Jews…and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days…. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:15–16)
Now here’s a really cool thing: Esther was humble enough to recognize that she needed God’s favor, wisdom, power, and protection to pull off this mission. So first thing, she humbled herself before God by determining to fast from food and drink for three days so that she could turn her full attention to Him. And then she asked others to join her and her maids in this fast. By doing that, she humbled herself before her people, admitting that she couldn’t do it alone and that she needed them.
After spending three days in prayer preparation, Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, where the king could see her (Esther 5:1). Just as Esther’s royal robes represented her royal position as queen, our royal robes represent Christ’s righteousness in us. A beautiful picture of our spiritual garments can be seen in the following Scripture:
I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Isaiah 61:10)
Although Esther was wearing royal robes, that doesn’t mean she just barged into the king’s throne room and demanded an audience. Perhaps her favor with the king was waning because she hadn’t been invited into his presence for an entire month. But Esther didn’t shrink back in fear either. (Now that’s what I call God-given girl power!) She simply stood in the court and waited for the king to acknowledge her.
And of course he did. The king noticed Esther standing there, respectfully waiting, honoring his position of authority. Pleased with her grace and dignity, he held out his scepter. Her life had been spared—he had invited her in.
Esther must’ve been trembling. But this elegant young lady courageously stood her ground in God’s purposes, even after the king asked her why she sought his presence and told her that she could have whatever she wanted, even if it meant giving her half of the kingdom. (If it were me, I might have laid it all out right then and there when I saw that he was in such a generous mood.) But Esther, fresh off a period of fasting, was more discerning about how to carry out God’s plan. Instead of making her request right away, she invited him and his most honored nobleman, Haman, to a banquet she had already prepared.
That’s right, Esther wanted to include Haman, of all people! Can you imagine inviting your enemy into your home and serving him? Now that would really require some inner strength.
In this day and age, gestures of hospitality are often thought of as being too girlie and not worth the hassle. Not for Esther though. At the Lord’s leading, she must have realized that inviting people into your personal space and serving them is often just what is needed to open the door to genuine communication and relationship.
As Esther’s gift of hospitality increased her favor with the king, the stage was being set for her to overcome evil with good. The king was delighted by his queen’s generous and kind spirit. Again, he asked her to make her request. Again, he guaranteed that he would give her what she wanted, even if it meant half his kingdom.
The situation seemed to scream for the unveiling of Esther’s true identity and the concern that was weighing heavily on her heart. But Esther discerned that she must wait. The time to speak with boldness hadn’t yet come, so she invited both the king and Haman back for another banquet the next day.
Oh, what a difference a day can make!
The scene at this second dinner was much different. In the twenty-four hours following the first banquet, Haman’s pride had gotten the best of him. First, he got so caught up in his boasting and his anger toward Mordecai that he built gallows from which to hang Mordecai for not bowing down to him. Then, when the king asked Haman how to honor a man who had served him faithfully, Haman assumed the king was referring to him and suggested elaborate methods of honoring this person. But to Haman’s surprise (and disgust, I’m sure), King Xerxes was asking for suggestions on how to honor Mordecai, who had once saved him from assassination. Even worse, the king then commanded Haman to carry out the grand public display of appreciation for Mordecai, the very man he had planned to hang. I guess that explains the saying “Pride goes before a fall.”
Finally, at the second banquet, the king again asked Queen Esther to make her request. He again guaranteed that he would give her what she wanted, even up to half his kingdom. This time Esther discerned that the perfect timing of the Lord had come, and she spoke with boldness:
“If I have found favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request. For I and my people have been sold for destruction and slaughter and annihilation.” (Esther 7:3–4)
King Xerxes was shocked that anyone would threaten Esther and her people. Who would do such a thing to his precious Queen Esther? When Esther told the king that Haman was the man behind all of it, the king’s eyes were opened to the truth. Ultimately, Haman was hanged on the very gallows he had built for Mordecai, Esther was given all of Haman’s possessions, and Mordecai was honored and given Haman’s position serving the king.
And the destiny-moment? The Jews were liberated and given the right to defend themselves. Celebrations took place throughout the kingdom to honor them. People of all races even converted and became Jews at the news of what happened. To this day, the Jewish holiday Purim is celebrated to remember this victory that came through the young Queen Esther.
Esther had indeed found favor in the eyes of King Xerxes. The road to this girl becoming first Esther the Queen and then Esther the Advocate was paved by the character qualities that she humbly and reverently allowed God to build in her and then use for His purposes. As she stepped into one providential opportunity after another, her destiny to turn a potential national crisis into a miraculous deliverance was sealed. What Satan meant for evil, God used for His good.
When people witness our character and courage for Christ, they become curious. They want to know more about this God who is obviously inspiring us and decorating our lives. Let the life of Esther and the lives of the modern-day Esthers highlighted in this book inspire you to have the same impact on your world. Perhaps you were born and brought to this place in your life for such a time as this.